Iwata-san, a new book that looks back at the life of the late Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, released in Japan today. The book was published by Hobonichi, which is the company that Earthbound creator Shigesato Itoi founded. Itoi and Shigeru Miyamoto talked about their friend in the book, recalling the good times they spent together. IGN has translated some excerpts from the book and posted them in a new article.
Miyamoto explained that “to me, he was a friend more than anything. It never felt like he was my boss or that I was working under him. He never got angry; we never fought about anything. Normally, if someone younger than yourself with fewer years of experience becomes president, it might be difficult to get along with each other, but it was never like that. It had always been obvious that he was more suited for the position (than me), so it never became a problem. I think it allowed us to naturally become true friends.”
Miyamoto also recalled a meal that he and Iwata shared together, when Iwata was still at HAL Laboratories at that time. After work, the pair went to have some ramen. According to Miyamoto, “Nintendo doesn’t pay for social expenses, so we had to go Dutch on the bill. That became a tradition that lasted even after he became company president and I became an executive”. Lastly, Miyamoto explained that “since he passed away, Nintendo has been doing just fine. He left many words and structures that live on in the work of our younger employees today. The only problem is that, if there is some good-for-nothing idea I come up with over the weekend, I have no one to share it with the next Monday. That I can no longer hear him say ‘Oh, about that thing…’ is a bit of a problem for me. It makes me sad.”
As for Shigesato Itoi, he had even more positive things to say about Iwata. Here’s what Itoi said about him in full:
“Iwata said that the vision behind his business was to make everyone happy: himself, his friends at work, and his customers. He used the English word for ‘happy’ instead of the Japanese word, which charmed me. It’s funny how you remember the most insignificant things, but whenever Iwata used the word ‘happy,’ he would show you the palms of both of his hands. That’s something I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
On the day of Iwata’s funeral, it rained in torrents, and Miyamoto and I were waiting around. Suddenly I decided to ask him how much chance Iwata himself had believed he had to be cured. Miyamoto responded immediately, in a very natural manner. ‘He totally believed that he would become better. He didn’t have the slightest intention to die.’ That answer made me realize just how close Miyamoto and Iwata were, and to what extent they understood each other.
It’s hard to describe how I felt when first meeting Iwata. There was something very pleasant about him. Without even really knowing him, you could immediately feel that he was someone you could trust. What I really appreciated about Iwata is that he was never insecure, and he would never show off or get mad just to show his authority or anything like that. That’s why you could have long conversations with him without things ever becoming awkward in the slightest.
All we would do is talk, to the extent that my wife once said something like, ‘All men ever do is chat!’ In Kyoto, I would come up with an excuse to meet him somewhere in town and have a chat, and then we would continue our conversation over lunch, and we would still be talking after coming back home. I remember how Iwata would throw a ball for my dog while talking, then my wife would take the dog for a stroll and when she came back we were still talking. Sometimes a conversation that started in the afternoon could last until after 9pm.
As the head of a big company, he probably should have been accompanied by someone, but Iwata always came over to my office just by himself. He would grab a cab, and as he rolled his suitcase, I can still hear him say ‘Hello there’ with that high-pitched voice of his.”